Karen Henry - August 20, 2018
It is impossible to have a vital community of the Spirit without authenticity. And part of authenticity is risking talking about those experiences which we might prefer not to talk about. I'm indebted to Castle Church's own Karen Henry for having the groundedness and the strength of character to share this reflection on searching for light in a dark time. Thank you, Karen. - Jared
The painted shell that sits on my desk.
I am a person who viciously assigns meaning to dates, items and places. In some instances, this is a wonderful trait. Birthdays and anniversaries are important to me and cause me to reminisce. When I wear a piece of jewelry from a friend, it reminds me of them. Restaurants and the food that I’m eating conjure memories of a place travelled and special people in my life.
Humans are hard-wired to create meaning. It is a survival mechanism and has been since the beginning of time. We have learned aggressive large animals with sharp teeth are dangerous and we should stay away. We have also learned that remembering your mother’s or partner’s birthday can foster stronger relationships.
Meaning is not necessarily good or bad. It is often a by-product of our perceptions, which can be both true and false. Meaning just “is.” The meaning that we assign to the world, people, and places around us create our reality.
The Castle Church location is steeped in meaning for me. The Castle Church location is less than 2.5 miles from the house where my husband walked away from our marriage. Castle Church sits in the middle of a five-mile radius of where I spent my entire married life (lived, work, played). The space and place is sensitive.
During the time I was married, I knew my marriage struggled. We went to counseling, I read “Power of a Praying Wife,” I went to counseling, I prayed, and when my ex threatened divorce in year three, I pleaded with him to stay. "Who stands at the alter in front of God, family and friends and professes forever if you do not really mean it!?"
I was given a list of what needed to change for him to stay (less talk about my job, a dog, an apology to his parents from me, more time with his parents without me, time with ‘the guys’). I checked every single thing off the list. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. And one week after we celebrated our fifth anniversary, over a Hawaiian pizza he told me that he was filing for divorce. I told him that if he would file, I would sign. I had fought for the marriage for five years and while it takes two people to enter into a marriage, it only takes one to end it. It took almost 11 months for our divorce to be processed. Eleven long months. Eleven months to wonder where God was and is in all of this.
He walked away 2.5 years ago and I still struggle with the pain and darkness. I have oscillated between hating God and not believing in Him/Her at all. I question fairness. I question my own self-worth. I don’t trust. I’m careful in opening up.
Throughout this process I began running again. I would go for long runs and think and be angry and cry. I joined a divorce support group. I went to counseling. I saw a psychiatrist. I read book after book on letting go and moving on with your life. I journaled.
And as time passed, I began to do less thinking and processing and more living. I started taking Tai Chi classes. I travelled to Iceland. I moved into an apartment complex amongst friends.
And that is what I think it is really about… LIVING!
I wish I was wise enough to come to this conclusion on my own, but I am not. I’m surrounded by friends and family members much wiser than myself. A dear friend of mine has brought me to tears on more than one occasion, reminding me that just because a season has passed, does not mean that we should stop living.
Life is beautiful and life is wretched. But through it all, we are living. LIVING!
In Ecclesiastes we are reminded that, while living, we’ll experience:
birth and death,
planting and uprooting,
killing and healing,
tearing down and building up,
weeping and laughing,
mourning and dancing,
scattering and gathering,
embracing and refraining from embrace,
searching and giving up,
keeping and throwing away,
tearing and mending,
silence and speech,
love and hate,
war and peace.
But even within each of these seasons let us LIVE. Let us assign meaning to this precious life of ours! As “… there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in their toil- this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 12-13).
Cheers and Peace,
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